Bearcats Plan to Increase Tempo as 2009-10 Season Starts

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Kip Ioane played basketball for Willamette University for four years. He then worked as an assistant coach with the Bearcats for eight seasons. Now he's Willamette's head coach and he plans to pick up the pace at which the Bearcats play, while forcing opponents to take on the new tempo, too.

Ioane and the Willamette basketball team will have a chance to test out their new approach with a pair of home games at Cone Field House to open the 2009-10 season. The Bearcats will take on Menlo College on Friday, Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. (PST), before hosting Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Saturday, Nov. 21, also at 7 p.m.

"We're going to be a lot more up tempo than we've been in the past," Ioane said. "We're going to go more off the dribble. On defense, we're predicated on pressure ... dictating to offenses what we're going to let them do."

Even with a faster pace, there are several things that won't change following 22 seasons under successful Head Coach Gordie James, who retired this past spring.

"We will still look to take good shots and force opponents to take bad shots," Ioane said. "We will continue to be known for our effort and unselfishness on the court. Those things won't change. It's just that the X's and O's are different from what they've been."

The Bearcats also return two starters in Cameron Mitchell (Sr., Post, Portland, OR/Grant HS/Univ. of Redlands) and Robbie Kunke (Jr., Wing, Clackamas, OR/Clackamas HS), plus three others players who saw action in 13 or more games in 2008-09. The additional experienced returners are Marcus Holmes (Jr., G, Seattle, WA/Garfield HS), Scott Schoettgen (So., Wing, Columbia, CA/Sonora HS) and Robert Wood (Sr., Wing, Keizer, OR/McNary HS/Chemeketa CC).

Returning with limited college playing experience are Taylor Mounts (So., Post, Kailua, Hawaii/Iolani School), Zack Lange (So., Post, Sisters, OR/Sisters HS) and Connor Walsh (So., Wing, Twisp, WA/Liberty Bell HS).

Leading the way is Mitchell, who topped the Northwest Conference in rebounding and was third in scoring last year. Mitchell tallied 16.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. He was named First Team All-NWC.

Mitchell scored 36 points against the University of Puget Sound as a sophomore (Feb. 23, 2008) and tallied 35 points against Pomona-Pitzer last season (Nov. 29, 2008). He shot 55.0% from the field (142 of 258) in 2008-09, while leading the Bearcats with 22 blocked shots on defense.

He enters his senior year with 672 points and 479 rebounds since transferring from the University of Redlands after one season. Including his freshman year at Redlands, he has scored 814 points and hauled down 647 boards. He is recovering from an injury to his arm, but has been cleared to play in the season opener.

Kunke, who started at point guard in 2007-08 and 2008-09, will compete as a wing this year. In 2008-09, he averaged 6.0 points, 4.5 assists (103 in 23 games) and 2.5 rebounds per game.

During two seasons at WU, Kunke has accumulated 282 points, 145 rebounds and 242 assists. He achieved 11 assists against Pacific on Feb. 22, 2008 and matched that total against Southern Oregon University on Dec. 29, 2008.

Holmes, who will be the primary point guard for the Bearcats this season, saw action in 22 of 23 games a year ago. He made 18 of 46 three-pointers (39.1%) and hit 20 of 23 free throws (87.0%). He scored 28 points earlier this month in an exhibition game at Boise State University.

Schoettgen played in 17 games last season. He averaged 6.7 points per game and contributed 2.1 rebounds per contest. He scored a season-high 16 points against Pacific University on Feb. 13, 2009.

Wood competed in 13 games in 2008-09 and provided quality relief for Willamette's starters. He scored nine points and grabbed three rebounds at Menlo on Dec. 5, 2008. He has the potential to make even bigger contributions in WU's fast-paced attack this season. At the moment, however, he is sidelined due to injury.

Mounts and Lange both appear ready to increase their playing time and impact on the team this year. Mounts has the size to help inside and has the versatility to shoot jumpers as well.

"He did everything we asked him to do to be ready for us," Ioane said regarding Mounts. "He's one of our pleasant surprises so far."

Lange runs well on the fast break and find ways to get open in the half-court offense. He will help out at the post this season.

Mitchell, Mounts and Lange are three of six posts on the team. The number of inside players give the Bearcats flexibility in how tall the lineup will be at any given moment during a game.

"I like the depth," Ioane said. "And I'm pleased with how they're working in practice."

Willamette has several talented newcomers. The one who will likely make the greatest impact early in the season is Ryan Meehan (So., Wing, Beaverton, OR/Beaverton HS/MSU-Billings).

Meehan was recruited by Willamette out of high school, but went to Montana State University-Billings for one season before transferring to the Bearcats. Meehan has exceptional range on the his jump shot and can play several positions.

"He's very versatile offensively," Ioane said. "Defensively, he can guard probably four positions. People are going to have to be aware of where he is at all times."

Willamette's new approach with a faster tempo will keep the Bearcats moving throughout every game. It's an approach that Ioane hopes will also keep fans actively involved at Cone Field House.

"Our style of play is predicated on spacing and allowing our guys to win one-on-one match-ups, both offensively and defensively," Ioane said. "if we can do that, we have a chance to be very exciting."

Overall, Ioane is just happy for the start of the season.

"I'm most excited about seeing the product on the floor ... our guys in action against somebody else," he said.

Cameron Mitchell led the NWC with 11.8 rebounds per game in 2008-09. He was third in scoring with 16.7 points per game.

Cameron Mitchell led the NWC with 11.8 rebounds per game in 2008-09. He was third in scoring with 16.7 points per game.